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Capsized boat found near Florida; 39 people missing

MIAMI — The U.S. Coast Guard searched on Tuesday for 39 people missing for several days after a boat believed to be used for human smuggling capsized off Florida’s coast en route from the Bahamas.

A good Samaritan called the Coast Guard early Tuesday after rescuing a man clinging to the boat 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, the maritime security agency reported on Twitter.

The man said he was with a group of 39 others that left the island of Bimini in the Bahamas on Saturday night. He said the boat capsized in severe weather and that no one was wearing life jackets.

The Coast Guard is calling it a suspected human smuggling case. Officials said on Twitter that they are searching by both air and sea over a roughly 135-mile area extending from Bimini to the Fort Pierce Inlet.

Migrants have long used the islands of the Bahamas as a steppingstone to reach Florida and the United States.